The Effect of Diet-induced Obesity on Toxicological Parameters in the Polygenic Sprague-Dawley Rat Model

Toxicol Pathol. 2018 Oct;46(7):777-798. doi: 10.1177/0192623318803557. Epub 2018 Oct 22.


The obese rodent serves as an indispensable tool for proof-of-concept efficacy and mode-of-action pharmacology studies. Yet the utility of this disease model as an adjunct to the conventional healthy animal in the nonclinical safety evaluation of anti-obesity pharmacotherapies has not been elucidated. Regulatory authorities have recommended employing disease models in toxicology studies when necessary. Our study investigated standard and exploratory toxicology parameters in the high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obese, polygenic Sprague-Dawley rat model in comparison to chow diet (CD)-fed controls. We sought to establish feasibility of the model for safety testing and relevance to human obesity pathophysiology. We report that both sexes fed a 45% kcal HFD for 29 weeks developed obesity and metabolic derangements that mimics to a certain extent, common human obesity. Minor clinical pathologies were observed in both sexes and considered related to CD versus HFD differences. Histopathologically, both sexes exhibited mild obesity-associated findings in brown and subcutaneous white fat, bone, kidneys, liver, lung, pancreas, salivary parotid glands, and skeletal muscle. We conclude that chronic HFD feeding in both sexes led to the development of an obese but otherwise healthy rat. Therefore, the diet-induced obese Sprague-Dawley rat may serve as a suitable model for evaluating toxicity findings encountered with anti-obesity compounds.

Keywords: Sprague-Dawley rat; bone toxicity; diet-induced obesity; nonclinical safety assessment; reproductive toxicity; toxicology parameters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / toxicity
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Estrous Cycle / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / urine
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Organ Specificity / physiology
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Biomarkers